I write this as I travel across America, concerned by the things that I have witnessed but also empowered by the people I have met.
Ignorance is bliss… a statement that has proven to be true many times over. However, when the ignorant become powerful the world can become a fearful place. The ignorance spreads, enveloping others like a viscious fog. And suddenly we lose sight of the beauty around us. Sadly this occurs all too often. Much of the time ignorance is bred by people who have never left the town that they grew up in, living in their happy bubbles full of positive memories and the comfort that comes from a nurturing family environment. It’s easy to understand that they fear the unknown, believe the stories, stereotype those who are not like them. Many have never been the target of violence, witnessed true suffering or experienced deep hardship and therefore struggle to show compassion towards others.
Freedom of speech allows us to comment, write and share information on topics we have little or no knowledge of. Modern news and media feed on fear, uncertainty and hatred. It targets our insecurities and preys on our emotions. Regrettably the words terrorism, war and violence draw more attention than the words love, peace and joy. In the narrow minded world we live in, we are quick to judge and place blame on entire races, religions and cultures. The hate and anger spreads like a virus using the ignorant as carriers. Amongst those who have not seen the world. Amongst those who have never endured pain or suffering. Amongst the closed minded.
They don’t see meet the man whose family was killed and tortured in Afghanistan because he fought for the American soldiers. He learnt English watching American movies and used his knowledge to translate for the American army. He was relocated to America to save his life. Despite the looming threat of deportation he continues to love America, he supports the American values and adopts the lifestyle, intertwining it with his own culture and beliefs. He will continue to study politics as he endeavours to make a difference in the world.
They do not meet the Muslim who works hard to send his mother money every month and yet she is constantly broke because she divides it up amongst those in her community who are in greater need than her. He has been vilified and has been the subject of intense hatred but he says, no matter what happens he will always love this country, because the actions of one person do not define a whole society. Those acts of racism do not overpower the love and support that he and his wife have received and the second chance that they have been given in life.
They do not see the mother, a beautiful and generous Mexican lady who opens up her home to those from America and around the world. She was a victim of domestic violence and has suffered intensely. She raised her children alone and continues to work hard, pay her taxes and support those who are less fortunate than her. She radiates warmth and kindness, happy to speak to strangers and share her story. Her eyes are full of compassion and understanding, it is a pleasure to be in her company.
They do not meet the hard working Vietnamese family who are regularly accused of stealing American jobs despite having built their own business from scratch. They work 12 hour days, 7 days a week to earn enough money to support their children and elderly grandparents whilst also giving back to their community. They demonstrate impeccable customer service and professionalism despite a challenging language barrier. They tell jokes and ask about our travels and the country we are from. They make us feel so incredibly welcome for the entire time that we are there.
The ignorant do not know that these people are not the minority, they are the majority. Immigrants and refugees are a beautiful part of our society, they are a part of our culture and they are the people who “make America great.” As visitors to America we were made to feel welcome by every single person we met but those people, the ones with the stories, the life experiences, the generosity, the gratitude and the cultures, are the people who made us truly fall in love with the country.
So if you feel like you may fall into this category; if you have judged without understanding or believed without knowing, do yourself a favour. Travel the world, open your mind, meet new people, try new things, experience life. I can guarantee it will change your life…